By Scott Kindberg
Nine months ago, Doc Rappole's cell phone rang on a cold February evening. On the line were Maple Grove cross country runners Caroline Benson and Hope Pietrocarlo who requested a meeting with their coach.
Maple Grove coach Doc Rappole and the Lady Red Dragons will be vying for their third straight New York State Public High School Athletic Association Class D cross country championship on Saturday at Elma Meadows. See additional photos at cu.post-journal.com.
P-J photo by Scott Kindberg
''They came over to the house and we sat at the kitchen table and they asked, 'What do we need to do to beat Greenwich (of Section 2)?''' Rappole said. ''I said, 'Well, it starts with spring track, but you start getting in shape now. I'm old school.'''
That old-school approach will be put to the test on Saturday when the Maple Grove girls team vies for its third straight New York State Public High School Athletic Association Class D championship at Elma Meadows.
This time, however, the Lady Red Dragons will be running stride for stride with perennial power Greenwich, which dropped from Class C to Class D this year.
See CROSS COUNTRY, Page B2
From Page B1
''Our girls, when they heard that Greenwich was back down to D, said, 'Yes, we've got a shot at Greenwich,''' Rappole said. ''That's their attitude and they mean it. Win or lose, I think it's pretty cool that that's the attitude they have.''
The young ladies have reason to be confident.
Maple Grove is ranked No. 1 in the state and it looks to defend its title with a formidable squad.
Pietrocarlo, who finished third in the state last year and is ranked No. 2, has had a tremendous postseason, winning both the Chautauqua-Cattaraugus Athletic Association and Section 6 titles in blistering times. She is joined by freshman Megan Marsh (No. 7), the defending state champion; juniors Taylor Norris (No. 13), Caroline Benson (No. 14) and Abby Sirwatka; eighth-grader Ally Saar; and senior Stephanie Krempa.
Benson was fifth, Norris 10th, Krempa 25th and Sirwatka 35th at states last year.
''Hope is running fantastically,'' Rappole said, ''Megan is running well and Caroline has been coming on the last couple of weeks. ... Taylor and Abby have to do their thing (on Saturday). ... People forget it is that fourth or fifth person (that determines a team title).''
One advantage the Lady Red Dragons will have - as will all the local athletes - is the course they will be running on. Elma Meadows was the site of the sectional championships last week.
''Obviously, all our kids have run this course,'' Rappole said. ''I think it's a course that favors Hope and Megan. It's a hilly course, a sneaky course and the first mile is uphill. It's real easy to get out too fast. It's taken a lot of good runners.''
One of the state's best runners among the boys is Maple Grove junior Corey Wefing, who finished fourth at the state meet a year ago. Ranked No. 2, Wefing has won every race this year with the exception of a third-place finish at McQuaid.
''Corey is awesome, he's a talent and he works hard,'' Rappole said. ''That's the neat thing about Corey. He doesn't act like he hasn't lost a race. He works hard ... and he goes out and runs. ... He really is a nice young man.''
Senior Gabe Rodriguez of Geneseo has the top speed rating in the state, but Wefing finished ahead of him at McQuaid.
''There are four kids out there who Corey has to run against,'' Rappole said. ''They want it, too. In my book, I'd sure put my money on him.''
The Maple Grove runners have dominated the state polls all season - the boys are No. 4 in Class D - but there is a strong contingent of runners from throughout Chautauqua and Cattaraugus counties who will be competing on Saturday.
Other CCAA runners among the boys are John Panus of Olean, who will be running in the Class B race; Ryan Hetrick and Jordan Powers of Southwestern, who will be competing in Class C; and Ryan Carpenter of Sherman, and Josh Ahlstrom, Frank Zuroski and Colin Green, all of Maple Grove, in Class D.
Carpenter finished 58th at the states last year, while Green was 67th.
Joining the Maple Grove girls are Olivia Zabrodsky of Jamestown in Class A; Lauren Reyda, Fredonia; Michaela Tramuta, Fredonia; Clare Foley, Fredonia; Kirsten Holmberg, Falconer; Meredith Zebracki, Fredonia; Jill Kowalski, Fredonia; Cori Gullo, Fredonia; and Gwen Stokes, Fredonia, in Class C; and Holly Eliason, Sherman, Rebecca King, Sherman; Hannah Seiders, Silver Creek; Emma Seiders, Silver Creek; and Katie Pacy, Sherman, in Class D.
The Fredonia girls are ranked No. 2 in the state behind top-ranked Bronxville. Reyda finished seventh at states last year. Teammates Tramuta, Zebracki, Gullo and Kowalski all have state-meet experience.
Other state returnees are Zabrodsky in Class A; Holmberg in Class C; and Eliason, Hannah Seiders and King in Class D. Zabrodsky placed 80th; Holmberg 26th; Eliason sixth, Seiders 24th; and King 28th in their respective classifications at last year's state meet.
The other state-ranked girls teams, besides Maple Grove and Fredonia, are Sherman at No. 8 and Silver Creek at No. 10, both in Class D.